The LuLac Edition #478, May 14th, 2008
PHOTO INDEX: THE SINATRA STAMP AND A PHOTO OF FRANK IN HIS PRIME.
WITHOUT A SONG
Frank Sinatra died 10 years ago today. The news came during the last episode of Seinfeld effectively overshadowing that great sitcom's swan song. Sinatra was of my parent’s generation and my first awareness of him came during the ABC TV program “The Hollywood Palace”. I began to see a few movies and entertainment specials and was hooked. Don’t get me wrong, I still loved the Beatles, the Four Seasons and my top 40. But Sinatra was something else. Sinatra was at a different level for me. When my friends said he was “old hat”, I countered that if George Gilbert could play his songs on WARM, that was good enough for me. Imagine listening to “Love Me Do” and “The Summer Wind” on an old 45 record player. My parents feared I was turning schizophrenic. Not to worry, it was just great music.
My Sinatra connection never ended. He was always there on a magazine cover, in the movies (when I first started dating Mrs. LuLac we saw a Sinatra movie called “Seven Deadly Sins”) on the tape deck and even years later when I worked in radio. When I started working at Rock 107 in sales, I secretly hoped they’d let me sell the American Popular Standards Station. After a few months, they did. If you’ve never been in the Times Building radio studios, it is a grand old radio setting. The WEJL studios were pretty much automated, only Program Director Michael Neff had an air shift in the morning. But at night, I’d go into the studio and write my orders in the soft light while the pop classics played on. And when Sinatra came on, I just sat and drank it in. It has been said that some people have even slow danced to Sinatra in that studio with the flashing multi colored automated lights and the sweet sounds of his voice.
When Sinatra had a birthday, I convinced the Promotions Manager of the Wyoming Valley Mall to do a Sinatra birthday party on Dec. 12th. It turned out he had been ill and we turned that into a "sign a get well card" for Frank promotion. (Every year, Michael Neff played wall to wall Sinatra on his, Frank’s, not Mike’s birthday, December 12th). As the remote took place, hundreds of fans and music lovers came to sign the get well card to Frank. Dressed in tuxes, Michael Neff and I met and greeted those fans. An elderly woman who was a bit of a bother kept on bugging Michael Neff asking “just who the heck he was?” Michael, a patient man finally said in exasperation, “I’m Frank’s friend Jilly and that's my bodyguard over there!” pointing a menacing finger at me. She smiled crazily and left the scene. (Editor’s note: Ermenigildo Rizzo (May 6, 1917 – May 6, 1992), nicknamed Jilly, was a restaurateur and entertainer. A long time friend of Frank Sinatra, Rizzo made cameo appearances in several of his films. He was also a frequent guest on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, where he would recite one liners in his New York accent.)
After that 1997 remote, Sinatra lived only a few months. He died on Thursday night, May 14th while most of the entertainment world were watching the less than spectacular Seinfeld finale. (Although I must say that the finale has grown on me over the years, I understand now what they were trying to accomplish artistically). On the weekend Sinatra died, WEJL/WBAX, like most stations of that format across America played nothing but Sinatra. Unable to sleep that Friday night, I left my home, popped the top on my car and drove through Wilkes Barre/Scranton with the radio on full blast. As I drove down the Scranton Expressway, I caught sight of the WEJL tower with its flashing light. I looked up and the night was possessed by a perfect starlit sky. As I looked at the God like inspired heavens, the man made tower with its wires of communication that made Sinatra the star he was, my thoughts turned to the role entertainment played in our lives. I thought about the role Sinatra held for me, as well as the World War II generation and for people just becoming familiar with his legend. I thought how fortunate I was to catch a large segment of his career and wondered if in a few years after his death the legend would sustain itself. After all, I reasoned, some would be hard pressed to tell you when Sammy Davis, Junior or Peter Lawford died. Then one of Sinatra’s biggest songs came on the radio. Hearing it, I knew that Sinatra left us perhaps his greatest legacy. We, his fans and followers would never be “Without A Song.” I turned back toward my home and drove down 81 with a smile on my face and a song, his song, on my lips and in my heart.
From You Tube: "Without A Song:"